Stuff’n’Stuff 07: Why are We Smarter Then Everybody?

In the “Fail of democracy” article, among other things, I suggested that the endowment effect was the reason of our inability to value others’ ideas over our own.

Indeed the mere fact of owning something creates an emotional attachment to that thing. My pen is better than John’s one because mine is cheaper. Jack’s pen is worse than mine because mine is more expensive. Actually my pen appears to have the best possible price and quality ratio.

I seriously doubt that developing a game is less complicated than owning a pen, so there should be other factors at play. Not to mention that the endowment effect is not the correct one.

There are 2 similar but different biases:  the Ikea effect and the NIH effect.


The Ikea effect basically means that labor enhances affection for its results. It makes us favor something that we’ve made over other things, even if both are 100% identical.

Imagine that you were asked to construct a Lego car for me. Before you begin constructing it I make perfectly clear that I would own it. Another person is given exact same task and instructions and will construct exact same car. When both cars are ready you are given a chance to buy one of them. Which one would you choose? Note, that despite the fact that I own both cars, you still, most probably refer to the one constructed by you as “my precious”, or at very least as “mine”. Additionally, chances are if I price your car higher than another one, you’d still be willing to buy your car.

The more effort you put into something, the more attached you get to it. But studies show that even a slight hint of effort is enough for that effect to emerge. Attachment also increases a lot if you manage to complete the project and this factor is a really strong one. In fact, unfinished project can seriously demoralize people. Many lose interest in their current jobs if they put lots of work into a project which gets cancelled. However that’s not what we are discussing today.


The NIH (Not Invented Here) effect makes us fall in love with our ideas.

Like the Ikea effect just a bit of mental work is required to get trapped by it. As much as reordering given words into a sentence. And that is not an exaggeration, there was a study which proves this thesis.

How many times did it happen to you – you suggest an awesome idea, but no one seems to care. But a week later someone who previously declined your idea tells you that he came up with something awesome and basically repeats you (I sure hate when my boss does that). It’s not because they want the credit, or because they are stupid. It’s just the way we are. If we think we came up with something we value it over identical idea, expressed by someone else.

Thoughts are a bit trickier than that. The effect can be amplified. We tend to come up with ideas that are coherent with our views. No wonder all my dark and moody suggestions are declined by happy and lively peers.

Could anything else affect our preferences? Of course! I have no idea how this effect is called, but we tend to associate things with history, memories and experiences. Or don’t you have that old junk, that have not been used for years (not THAT junk!) but you still keep it because you’ve had a history with it long ago? The experience does not even has to belong to you. Let’s say I give you a sweater. It is unremarkable in all the aspects and most probably you have no particular feelongs towards it. Now I can tell you that Paul McCartney owned it. Or that it was serial killer. Would it change the way you look at the sweater? Even if you know I’m messing with you, most people would form a positive or negative to a completely neutral object. And if it happens to things, maybe it could happen to thoughts ot ideas? Like,”Hey wasn’t it what Hitler said before starting a genocide?”

OK, back to the track. The phenomenon of self-admiration seems to be universal and can be easily seen on the road. Have you noticed that you are surrounded by morons? Everybody who drives faster than you do is a damn irresponsible moron. Everybody who drives slower is a damn slowpoke moron. Is it just me or is it the play of several biases fired up by the extreme situation?

Now, what is the point of all of this?
Well I was going to examine my previous articles with these effects in mind, but it turned out to be a long and dull wall of text. So there you go, no dull self-observations, just a little bit of info each of us could use. And I promised to write about it anyways.

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PS. On a totally unrelated topic – Otaku still hasn’t got laid and he needs some cash to change the situation ($500 would do the trick). No, not hookres! Virtual ticket to fictional America in a video-game I’m working on! More details here. Or here. It’s the same anyway. Thanks, bye!